Infertility on the Road to Emmaus
Updated: Feb 18, 2022
My dear sister in Christ, I write to you today with deep affection and compassion for your journey. During the darkest moments of my infertility, I admit that I did not always handle situations in the best way. Looking back, if I could have a conversation with myself, what would I say? “Do not give up. God is listening. He is at work at this very moment. Quietly. Patiently. Masterfully. Perfectly.” But I’m not sure whether those words would have comforted me at the time. Like St. Thomas, I felt I would have to see it to believe it. Sometimes the experiences of grief and disappointment shadow our perception and we miss the light that is glimmering in the distance, the flame of love that can never be extinguished.
My cousin is a gifted spiritual director who often speaks of finding the “shimmery” moments in life. The ones that cause us to pause, take note or think “Wow, I have never thought of it that way before”. Sometimes I used to wonder where God was in my life, if He even cared. Looking back, I can see that throughout the journey there were always “shimmery moments” – moments whispering to me, calling me out from my frailty and into a more hopeful life. God is ever-faithful. He is ever true to His word – He will not abandon us, He will not leave us orphans (John 14:18).
My favorite story in the gospels is “The Road to Emmaus”, for its message is a reminder of this truth. In Luke’s account, we are introduced to Cleopas and an unnamed disciple who were distraught over the untimely death of Jesus, in whom they had placed all their trust. “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” (NIV Luke 24:15-16)
Grief has a way of masking the world around us; it can confuse and blur the truth. I’m sure the disciples felt that way as they grappled with the death of Jesus and faced the unbearable task of having to switch directions and move on from the devastation. When Jesus greeted them, He was patient. He attentively listened to their views. He knew the punchline to the story. After all, He had risen, conquered death and saved the disciples’ souls! Yet Jesus absorbed the pain of their grief before he revealed the glorious truth that awaited them. Jesus was a true model of accompaniment and compassion!
Image: Landscape with Christ and his Disciples on the Road to Emmaus by Jan Wildens (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Along the road
Along the road of infertility, there can be surprising relationships that become like a nice warm flame, providing support and encouragement. I recall that one of my closest coworkers in particular would listen to me vent and capitulate on end. She never dismissed or chided me. Instead, she offered a caring balance of empathetic listening and constructive advice.
Consider the people in your life: the ones who get you, who believe in you, who beckon to you not to give up. These are your fellow journeymen and women. These are your people! Cherish and thank them. These are God’s beacons along your way. If you feel there is no one to talk to, that nobody understands or gets it, I feel for you. This journey can be very isolating at times. You are not alone. Please consider reaching out to our wonderful Sisters of Hannah team: they are compassionate women who have walked this path themselves and are prepared to offer support, a listening ear, and a faith-based outlook. If you’d like to talk with the Sisters of Hannah, click on the “Mentorship” tab and fill out the form to request a virtual meeting.
If the weight seems too much and you feel you need professional help, please consider reaching out to a counsellor or a good spiritual director. Professionals dedicate their lives to providing excellent care. You are worth it!
Image: The Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Their eyes were opened
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (NIV Luke 24: 30-31)
For just a moment, Jesus revealed himself to them. In the Eucharist, everything made sense! The disciples understood in that brief moment that there was more to their story than their pain or their past: all they had experienced had brought them to this moment.
Flashes of consolation are out there, like fireflies dancing in the night. With awe and amazement, we can see God’s little graces dazzle our lives with sparks of light. In childlike wonder we dash out to capture these moments with hopeful giddiness. These sudden and unexpected moments are God’s invitations to hold on to grace. Whether experiences of profound significance – a consoling dream, a scripture passage, an insightful homily – or a seemingly ordinary kind gesture from a loving friend, these moments of grace are reminders of God’s thirst for you and promise of a life-giving future. Do not be quick to dismiss these gifts, for, as short-lived as they may seem, their flashes reveal God’s movement toward your future.
I recall one such moment of consolation as I visited my mom who had just undergone major heart surgery. I had been struggling with my infertility and was worried that my mom might never get to hold a child of mine. As my sister and I entered the recovery room, I was shocked and stunned, as the woman laying in the hospital bed did not look like my mom! My sister squeezed my arm tightly and gasped, “She looks just like Grandma!” Frozen, I felt an incredible sense of God’s tender compassion and love. My grandmother had passed away several years before, yet in that moment I felt as though God was saying, “Your mom’s going to be ok. You’re going to be ok. Remember your grandma’s compassion. It is but a drop in the bucket of my love for you. I know the longing in your heart and I am working all things for the better.” I continue to pray for my grandmother, because as Catholics we want the fullness of the resurrection for all of our loved ones, but I will always treasure this little moment of peace.
Were not our hearts burning?
“They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?” (NIV Luke 24:32)
What is your heart burning for? Do you desire to be a mother, to have healthy, happy children? Is that all? Is that the one and only thing that keeps you going? When we encounter truth, God’s truth, the Spirit of God adds a spark in our hearts. We get an extra little pick-me-up in the morning. We have energy and passion that lasts for a while. Yet, when the one thing our hearts burn for runs out of oil, we have but one source to turn to for strength. Pour your heart before Jesus in the tabernacle. He is waiting for you and will guide you to deeper understanding. If childlessness, loss, or fear of the unknown puts out your flame, do not for one second think that God’s light has gone out on you. Burn for love of your beloved husband. Burn for love of God’s forgotten children. Burn for love for your neighbor, for your opportunity to serve, for the giftedness and resourcefulness within you that makes you you. Above all, burn for Jesus, the one who listens to you. The one who loves you madly, deeply, completely. He knows exactly what you are capable of on this earth, in the here and now. He will continue to shine his light upon you until your heart begins to burn again.
The road to illumination
Take a walk along a quiet path and notice who and what you encounter. Be attentive to how long you have traveled and how a short encounter is a small fraction of the entire trip. Pray for the people who are journeying through infertility with you.
Visit an adoration chapel or the tabernacle at your church. Journal all the small “shimmery” moments of your recent memory. Take account of how God may be speaking to you through them.
What is your heart burning for? What helps fan the flame of your heart? Take some time to do something life-giving this week. Ask God to reignite the flame of your heart for Him.